Phil Plait has a fantastic observation on all this, prompted by the amazing photo from the Mars orbiter of the Rover on its way down – this one –
The simple and sheer amazingness of this picture cannot be overstated. Here we have a picture taken by a camera on board a space probe that’s been orbiting Mars for six years, reset and re-aimed by programmers hundreds of millions of kilometers away using math and science pioneered centuries ago, so that it could catch the fleeting view of another machine we humans flung across space, traveling hundreds of million of kilometers to another world at mind-bending speeds, only to gently – and perfectly – touch down on the surface mere minutes later.
I know. I was tripping on it yesterday, and I still am. Wham bam 8 months at high speed then wham decelerate then whisper touch down gently on the ground. It makes my eyes prickle every time I think about it. And not only that but the orbiter snaps a photo of it from above. It’s just too amazing.
The news these days is filled with polarization, with hate, with fear, with ignorance. But while these feelings are a part of us, and always will be, they neither dominate nor define us. Not if we don’t let them. When we reach, when we explore, when we’re curious – that’s when we’re at our best. We can learn about the world around us, the Universe around us. It doesn’t divide us, or separate us, or create artificial and wholly made-up barriers between us. As we saw on Twitter, at New York Times Square where hundreds of people watched the landing live, and all over the world: science and exploration bind us together. Science makes the world a better place, and it makes us better people.
It’s what we can do, and what we must do.
Ya. One of the guys at the late press conference last night said he really believes curiosity is the central human quality. It was thrilling, especially because that’s what I think too.
Thank you JPL. Thank you engineers.